What Does Your Mother Think of Your Acting Dream?

May 13, 2013

Jennifer Lawrence and her mom

Indian spiritual leader, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, once said, “The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.” All the infinite varieties of children are as vast as the shades and hues of the mothers who brought them into this world. And as every actor has a unique personal journey that leads him or her to the entertainment industry, likewise, every actor’s mother responds to his or her dream in her own way.

First off, there are the incredibly supportive moms like Hilary Swank’s mother who was determined to do all she could to encourage her daughter’s acting dream. She even moved with Hilary to Los Angeles virtually penniless, where they lived out of a car until she saved enough money to rent an apartment. Now there’s a mother who believed in her daughter’s potential!

Then there was Jennifer Lawrence’s parents who initially felt conflicted when their daughter quit school at age 14 to move to New York. Jennifer’s older brothers, Ben and Blaine, had to persuade their mother and father to allow Jennifer to risk failure in her attempts at following her heart. Jennifer said, “My brothers called them and said: ‘You’ve traveled all over the country with us, for baseball, football and basketball. This is her baseball game. You have to support her.’ So they were forced to, at that point.” So, even though they were reticent, they pushed all their chips to the middle of the table.

Jessica Alba, who signed with her acting agent at the age of 11, plans to encourage her own children to avoid the business altogether during their formative years. She would like them to finish college, live their lives, and then, “…if they want to get into the arts, that’s fine…I wouldn’t encourage them to work in this type of environment as children.” Similarly, Britney Spears was a Disney Mouseketeer at the age of 11, and has stated that if her sons desired to participate in the entertainment industry, she would, “lock them up in their rooms until they turn 30.”

What about your mom? When you first shared your desire to pursue acting, how did she respond? Did she remind you of her aspiration for you to become a doctor or lawyer? Did she start reciting the drawbacks like ruthless competition, loss of privacy, and the financial pressure commonly associated with the field? Or was she elated because, after all, she’d already spent thousands of dollars in pushing you to become famous–something along the lines of the moms featured in Toddlers and Tiaras? Or maybe your mom was genuinely excited that you had found something you’re passionate about and set out to support you in any way she could.

Please share how your mom encouraged or discouraged you in your acting dream.

Down and Out–But Determined to Become an Actor

January 11, 2013

It’s Oscar time again! Just this morning, media outlets announced the Oscar nominations for 2013, and the glamour of it all is just about oozing from every TV across the globe. After all, hailed Oscar winners like Halle Berry (Monster’s Ball), Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry), and Sylvester Stallone (Rocky) exude supreme confidence and tremendous magnetism while prowling the red carpet. But what these preeminent actors also have in common is the fact that they were all once homeless.

 It can be hard to imagine, but in pursuing her acting dreams in New York City, Halle Berry lived in a homeless shelter in the late 1980’s. “I was probably about 21. But a girl had to do what a girl had to do. You can do that when you’re 21 and ambitious, and your eyes are this big and you don’t want to go home,” she stated in a Reader’s Digest interview. Hilary Swank and her mother were homeless for a brief period when they moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of Hilary’s dream of becoming an A-lister. This monumental aspiration involved the comforts of an Oldsmobile ’88, a net worth of $75, and a mother’s sheer belief in her daughter’s talent–all of which ultimately lead to Hilary’s career success.

But there’s more! Daniel Craig, Jim Carrey, Sam Worthington, Rose McGowan, and Martin Sheen likewise found themselves living out of a car, or living on the streets for a period of time before their careers took off. It’s safe to assume they all experienced hard days filled with self-doubt, and frequently–if not constantly–questioned their life decisions. But they also shared a compelling determination to become an actor, a conviction to rise above obstacles, a mandate to keep working, and an overriding ambition to show the world the bright, shining star within their hearts.

So, for those of you who are presently tackling difficult challenges while pursuing your Thespian dreams, don’t lose sight of the prize. You are more than your present circumstances. Yours in a noble struggle, so keep up the good work. And keep believing!

Use Caution at Casting Calls & On Set

July 20, 2012

This week Halle Berry suffered a head injury while shooting a fight sequence for her new film, The Hive. After taking a nasty fall, Berry hit her head on concrete and then began to vomit—a sure sign of concussion. Fortunately, she’s been released from the hospital and is reportedly doing fine. But this story brings starkly to mind the occupational hazards of acting. Make no mistake, the movie business can be a dangerous place. We’ve read stories about actors who perform their own stunts like Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Harrison Ford, and Jason Statham. And with all the preparation and support on set, it’s pretty rare that anything too tragic seems to happen. But, there are many stories attesting to the fact that, at times, things really do go wrong and someone gets hurt. Just last week, singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth was hit in the head by scaffolding on the Brooklyn set of The Good Wife, and had to be rushed to the hospital. She’s been released and is reported to be recovering at home. And also consider, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Hough, Kristin Stewart, Justin Timberlake, and Nicole Kidman have all incurred injury on set. In fact, Shia Labeouf spent hours in surgery after a car wreck crushed his hand on the set of Transformers 2. He considers himself lucky to have 80 percent use of two injured fingers.

Heck, you can even get hurt during an audition. Camera operators are like sailors with their foreboding stories of sea travels. One camera operator describes pairs of children required to “really fight” using the toy weapons to be advertised. Turns out the camera operator was the one hit with a broken toy ax blade to the thigh! The prop nailed him with such force he ended up getting five stitches. In truth, anyone and everyone in that room was at risk.

So when you go into the audition room or venture on set, stay alert and keep your thinking cap on. Make a decision as to how much you’re willing to risk or what boundaries you’re going to require. Are you the actor who must perform all his or her own stunts to feel authentic and in the moment? Or are you comforted by the director’s “Cut!” and content to allow a stunt double to complete the precarious action? Whatever your decision, remember you still won’t be immune to the occasional occupational flukes. How can anyone ever be considered completely safe when you hear stories like Gerard Butler’s suspender snapping and hitting Hilary Swank in the face on the set of the romantic comedy P.S. I Love You? She needed three stitches on her forehead!
 So fellow thespians, take heed: With all the requirements for intense drama, heavy action, boundless creativity, and increasing realism, the acting field can a dangerous business.